Lima offers tourists a vast history to explore, superb museums, dozens of art galleries, exciting theatre productions, numerous cultural exhibitions, folklore shows, modern shopping malls and recreational areas, in addition to archaeological and natural attractions.The city of Lima, located on the shore of the Rimac River and the Pacific Ocean, was founded by the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535. Lima became known as the City of Kings, not only because the name is associated with the position it once held as the capital of the Spanish viceroyalty but because Pizarro had planned to discover the city on January 6th, the day of Epiphany. From the beginning, Lima was an oasis of culture and elegance in the American Indies. Just a few decades after it was founded, Lima already rivalled Mexico as the most important metropolis in the Spanish-American Empire. Baroque and Renaissance churches, mansions, palaces, universities and archdioceses filled Lima in its early days. The cultural scene hummed positively as early as the beginning of the seventeenth century, when Lima had a population of just 25,000.
The main interest lies in the historic centre, which ideally should be seen on foot. Try the route along pedestrian walks to the church of San Francisco and its catacombs, the Lima Cathedral, Santo Domingo Convent; the Torre Tagle Palace, Aliaga House, the oldest standing mansion in Lima; and then in to the bustle of Chinatown in the heart of the central market.
The infamous National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology houses an extensive collection of pre-Columbian artefacts and maintains an outstanding international reputation for its curatorial and presentational accomplishment.
Also famous is the Gold Museum, a private museum entirely devoted to displaying the legendary treasures of Peru's ancient, pre-Columbian civilizations. Visitor tours are available on the traditional 'urbanito' buses from the Plaza Mayor (the Main Square), up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal where the 20-meter high cross that is lit in the evenings has kept watch over the people of Lima for 71 years. People believe the cross is miraculous, and many walk on pilgrimages to the top of the hill during Easter Week and on the first Sunday in May.
Sprinkled between the modern and traditional neighbourhoods lie the prehispanic funeral mounds or huacas, which still conceal many secrets of the ancient civilizations that lived on the land. The untouched ancient temples and archaeological sites stand out against the bustling metropolis. In the heart of San Isidro stands the Huallamarca complex.
One of the most famous and best conserved huaca in Lima is the Huaca Pucllana, where visitors can walk around the site and savour the best of Peruvian cuisine at nearby restaurants.
Miraflores Lima’s foremost tourist area and hip hotel district is Miraflores. The district features spacious modern shopping areas, well-maintained parks and numerous gardens full of Peruvian fauna. Besides being well known for its flower-filled parks, Miraflores is also known for its beaches, which are part of the “Costa Verde” area and draw thousands of beach goers and surfers in the summertime. In Miraflores, one will witness many cultural sites and events at theatres, cinemas, and art galleries. A visit to Huaca Pucllana, the pre-Inca mud-brick temple and archaeological site is also a must. In addition, the district teems with cosy cafes, pubs, chic restaurants, a wide array of shopping, open-air concerts and flea markets that are filled on weekends with Lima’s locals.
San Isidro Known as Lima’s “garden” district for its green zones and exclusive residential areas, San Isidro features many of the city’s finest restaurants, hotels and concert halls. Despite the recent boom in building development in the area, San Isidro has kept its aristocratic feel and centuries-old olive grove in the area of Olivar. The district also features the pre-Hispanic temple, Huallamarca, famous for the varied concerts and exhibitions held there year round.
Lima is interconnected by the Pan-American Highway to different cities along the coast of Peru, Ecuador, and Chile. To the west, the Carretera Central is the main highway to different highland and central jungle cities. Regular flights to major world cities are from the Jorge Chavez International Airport, located in the Callao Region, approximately 30 minute from Lima.
Where to Stay
Lima offers a number of five- and four-star accommodation mainly located around the coastal areas particularly Miraflores and San Isidro.
For quality accommodation visitors can consider the Orient Express Miraflores Park Hotel, Lima Country Club and Libertador. Lima will also have the first Westin hotel in South America which will also be the tallest building next year.
Where to Eat
Lima’s restaurants offer not only traditional Peruvian dishes, but also Italian, French, Indian, and Asian and daring fusions cuisines. First class restaurants are a mandate in Peru, as a few years ago the Peruvian government decreed that the most important gambling casinos should have an adjacent first-class restaurant.
The majority of Lima’s best restaurants are located in Miraflores, though some can be found in San Isidro, Surco and Baranco.
Lima has a busy nightlife with a wide variety of activities to suit every taste. The fun begins just after sunset, at popular karaoke bars, salsódromos (great places for tropical salsa dancing), pubs and discos, or at folk music shows where visitors ends up singing and dancing to the rhythm of the Peruvian percussion.
Peruvian folk music derives from Andean heritage (huainos and carnavalitos) as well as African (festejo, landó) and European Colonial roots (valses and marineras). The party at these places lasts until dawn, often times ending with a Creole breakfast of tamales, rolls with fried pork and chicken soup; or if you prefer, with the Peruvian pisco sour on the beachfront.
As the most cosmopolitan city in Peru, Lima features numerous shopping centres, malls, boutiques and large department stores. A diversity of national and international designers and brands are available, with garments made of pima and tanguis cotton, two varieties of Peruvian cotton, as well as garments made with alpaca wool that after the vicuña wool, considered as one of the finest fibres in the world.
The Jockey Plaza Shopping Center has almost 200 exclusive shops. Lima also offers an endless choice of handicrafts. Arts and crafts vary greatly, some made of clay, cloth, wool, stone, leather, tin and wood, and painted in multiple colours.
The Indian markets in Miraflores, the areas surrounding the Plaza Mayor, and Avenue La Marina are the best spots to see the creativity of Peruvian folk artists. Handcrafted jewellery, full of inherited art and ancient tradition are available in many shops.
The Petit Thouars Handicraft Market offers textiles, handmade wool sweaters, ceramics, silver and gold jewelry, bomboo quenas, traditional outfits and alpaca carpets. It is located in Miraflores, on Petit Thouars Avenue.
The Indio Market (Mercado Indio), located between 6th and 10th on Avenue La Marina, is a colourful market that also specialises in crafts. Shoppers can bargain for fine woollen clothing, carved wood, tooled leather cushions, stools, silver jewellery, and other curios.
Location: Peru is located in the central western portion of South America. It covers 1.285 million square kilometers and is South America’s third largest country, and the 20th largest nation in the world. Its total surface equals the combined areas of Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Holland and Belgium.
Population: Peru’s population is approximately 28 million of which 72% live in the city and 28% in the countryside.
Languages: Spanish and Quechua (the language of the Incas) are the nation’s official languages although Spanish is much more widespread. Some 49 other indigenous languages are also recognised by the Peruvian State. English is used widely by travel service providers.
Passport/Visas: Visitors to Peru need a valid passport but tourist visas are not required by UK visitors. More information is available from www.rree.gob.pe
Immunisations: No specific immunisation restrictions apply for visits to Peru. It is however advised to get a yellow fever vaccine ten days before visiting certain Amazon rainforest areas. Visit www.cdc.gov/travel for more information.
Customs: Visitors to Peru may bring a number of personal goods free of taxes, including clothing and accessories, a portable musical instrument, three litres of alcoholic beverages, and gifts for a maximum value of US$3,000 and individual values not exceeding US$100. Sports gear for adventure tourism (hang-gliding, mountaineering, kayaking, fishing, scuba diving, water skiing, windsurfing and others) are also allowed free of taxes into Peru.
Currency: The Nuevo Sol which is divided into 100 cents.
Electricity: 220 volts but most four- and five-star hotels have installed 110 volt power outlets.
For more information: Call 020-7367 0900 or visit www.peru.info
Pictures courtesy of: Anibal, Solimano/PromPeru